Summer break is in full swing for many students across the country, but many educators are already preparing for the new school year. Some North Carolina educators are in Atlanta this week for the National Education Association's 151st annual Representative Assembly.

The theme of this year's NEA convention is: We Educate America. Nearly 9,000 public school teachers and education support professionals are attending the week-long event.

They will look at several pressing issues facing school systems nationwide, including school safety and gun violence prevention, Common Core State Standards, threats to eliminate small class sizes and other hot button issues addressed at the general assembly this year.  

Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, is representing the Tar Heel state at the convention. He says the number one issue facing educators in North Carolina is salaries.

“It is such because we currently rank 46 in the country and we will probably be 48th next year in salaries,” says Ellis.

The salary ranking is according to a recent report by the National Education Association. The report says the average public school teacher salary in North Carolina is around $45,900. Ellis says entry level teacher salaries in the state average around $30 to $32,000.  

The report ranks New York with the highest average salary for a public school teacher at around $73,300. Ellis says the changes are discouraging.

“It would take a four percent increase just to get us to the level of South Carolina and who would have ever though that NC would be striving to reach a level that South Carolina is and that is no disrespect intended to S.C., but we have always been a leader in public education,” says Ellis.

Ellis says, “The salary issue makes it difficult to attract the best and brightest educators out there. It also causes a hardship for many educators who invest a lot of their personal funds into providing a quality education to our students,” says Ellis.

But despite the challenges and lack of resources educators face, Ellis says he plans to share a bright spot with other assembly members.

Last year, North Carolina's high school graduation rate jumped to 80.2 percent, the highest four-year graduation rate ever reported in the state.

The National Education Association's Representative Assembly in Atlanta runs through Saturday, July 6.

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